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16
Jul

Assessment of Triclosan Hazards Supports Call for Canadian Ban

(Beyond Pesticides, July 16, 2014) The Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA) and Clean Production Action (CPA) released a comprehensive assessment of the hazards posed by triclosan and its chemical cousin triclocarbon Thursday, calling on the Canadian Government to create a comprehensive phase-out plan for these harmful antibacterial chemicals. The report, which finds that the chemicals are accumulating in the waters of the Great Lakes, also suggests that the U.S. and all provinces and states bordering the Great Lakes should prohibit use opicf the chemicals. The two antibacterial chemicals are commonly used in consumer products ranging from liquid soaps and toothpaste to kitchen cutting boards, and have come under increased scrutiny amidst human health concerns and lack of efficacy. The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) has been calling for a ban on the household use of triclosan since 2009, and in 2012, the Canadian government declared triclosan as toxic to the environment. In the U.S., Beyond Pesticides has petitioned the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and its counterpart, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (which regulates non-cosmetic products with triclosan) for years to immediately ban triclosan from consumer products, citing endocrine disruption, and other human health concerns. Last December, FDA announced it will now require manufacturers to prove their antibacterial soaps are safe and effective.

Using a new tool, GreenScreen® for Safer Chemicals, which compares chemical hazards to assess the environmental and human health profile of triclosan and triclocarban, CELA and CPA found that triclosan is a Benchmark 1 substance – a chemical to be avoided. Triclocarban is ranked as a Benchmark 2 with very high aquatic toxicity. “The advantage of the GreenScreen assessment tool is that it comprehensively looks at the full range of impacts –from human health to environmental harm– of a substance and allows users and regulators to better understand if a chemical should be avoided, substituted, or can continue to be used.  This is a better alternative to the often siloed approach taken by regulators, which can send unclear signals to the market. For example, Health Canada says that triclosan is safe for humans –despite its endocrine system effects, but Environment Canada considers it toxic and highly damaging to the natural environment. With over 1,600 consumer products containing triclosan and hundreds more containing triclocarban, consumers are left in the dark about how toxic these antibacterial chemicals are in the environment,” says Bev Thorpe, Consulting Co-Director of Clean Production Action, the host organization for GreenScreen.

Beyond Pesticides has generated extensive documentation of the potential human and environmental health effects of triclosan. Studies show that it can interfere with thyroid and estrogen hormones, and may promote the progression of cancer cells. This is alarming given that the CDC has found that 75% of the U.S. population contains triclosan in their bodies, even in breast milk, and at levels that are rising. Triclosan is an endocrine disruptor and has been shown to affect male and female reproductive hormones and possibly fetal development. It is also shown to alter thyroid function. A recent study also linked triclosan to the growth of breast cancer cells.

“What’s particularly alarming is the range of impacts these chemicals are having –from damaging aquatic ecosystems, including the Great Lakes, to interfering with human endocrine systems. When you realize that 95% of triclosan and the vast majority of triclocarban ends up going down the drain, the fact that both pose a very high toxic hazard to aquatic organisms is very bad news for our lakes and rivers,” noted CELA researcher Fe de Leon.

Triclosan is no more effective than regular soap and water in controlling germs and bacteria. In fact, an FDA Advisory Committee, and the American Medical Association both find that there is no evidence that triclosan is effective for its intended use. Instead, triclosan is linked toincreasing bacterial resistance and cross-resistance to crucial antibiotic medications –possibly threatening public health. A study published in April found that individuals exposed to triclosan were more likely to carry staph bacteria. Rather than eliminate dangerous bacteria in and on the body, the study found that triclosan promotes the binding of staph to human proteins making them “stickier.” Triclosan also allows staph to better attach to other surfaces such as glass and plastic.

Fortunately, despite slow federal response to regulating these chemicals, in both the U.S. and Canada, smaller locales are willing to phase out the use of these chemicals and from their products. One Great Lake state, Minnesota announced in May that it would ban the chemical in personal care and cleaning products. A 2013 study showed triclosan toxicants accumulating in the bottom of lakes and rivers in Minnesota.

In addition to state action, multinational corporations such as Johnson & Johnson, Procter & Gamble and Colgate-Palmolive began reformulating to remove triclosan from their products for several years now. Avon joined these companies earlier in 2014, announcing  it will begin phasing the chemical out of “the few” products in its line that include it. Avon cites customer concern as its reason for reformulating.

“As triclosan comes under increasing scrutiny, it is essential that we do not replace it with another hazardous chemical, like triclocarban. You would think this would be common sense but the recent case of dangerous plastic microbeads in cosmetic products, demonstrate that many manufacturers are still not anticipating the potential harm chemicals may have in the environment” notes consulting Co-Director Thorpe. “We are calling on companies and regulators to stop the toxic treadmill of ongoing hazardous chemical use by using tools like GreenScreen to better understand the hazards of any chemical before it is put into consumer goods.”

Beyond Pesticides also urges concerned consumers to join the ban triclosan campaign and sign the pledge to stop using triclosan today. Read the label of personal care products in order to avoid those containing triclosan. Encourage your local schools, government agencies, and local businesses to use their buying power to go triclosan-free. Urge your municipality, school, or company to adopt the model resolution which commits to not procuring or using products containing triclosan.

For additional information on the human health and environmental effects of triclosan see Beyond Pesticides’ Antibacterials program page.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: Green Screen

Photo Source: Canadian Environmental Law Association

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15
Jul

Comprehensive Review Finds Clear Health Benefits of Organic Food

(Beyond Pesticides, July 15, 2014) More nutritional antioxidants, far fewer toxic pesticides; those are the results of a comprehensive meta-analysis on organic foods published yesterday in the British Journal of Nutrition. Led by Carlo Leifort, Ph.D, at England’s Newcastle University, the analysis is a scientific rebuttal to a previous Stanford University review published in 2012, which found that there was little difference between the nutritional content of organic food over conventionally grown produce. Both studies found there to be fewer pesticides in organic products.

While Stanford University’s review only looked at 200 studies, Dr. Leifert and his team of researchers expanded the scope of their meta-analysis to 343 studies, and also employed more robust analytic tools by analyzing the standardized mean differences of the data from the various studies. It shows very clearly how you grow your food has an impact,” said Dr. Leifert to The New York Times. “If you buy organic fruits and vegetables, you can be sure you have, on average, a higher amount of antioxidants at the same calorie level.” Antioxidants, compounds such as phenolic acids, flavanones, stilbenes, flavones, flavonols and anthocyanin, have been linked to lower risks of cancer and other diseases.

For many, news of higher nutritional content in organic foods is simply another benefit of buying into a system that eschews toxic pesticides, treats animals with care, and protects farmworkers and the surrounding environment. Both the Stanford and Newcastle studies found pesticide residues four times more frequently on conventional crops than on organic produce.

Pesticide exposure, even at low level residues like those found on food, has been linked to a wide range of adverse impacts wildlife and humans, particularly children. In 2012, the American Academy of Pediatrics released a statement advising parents to choose organic in order to avoid pesticide exposure. Also in 2012, a report published by a team of 12 scientists found strong evidence that low doses of endocrine disrupting chemicals influence human diseases, including links to infertility, cardiovascular disease, obesity, cancer, and other disorders. “Whether low doses of endocrine-disrupting compounds influence human disorders is no longer conjecture, as epidemiological studies show that environmental exposures are associated with human diseases and disabilities,” the report stated. Research from Tyrone Hayes, PhD, at University of California Berkeley found that a minute dose of the herbicide atrazine (as small as .1 parts per billion) turns tadpoles into hermaphrodites. In 2013, the Environmental Protection Agency acknowledged that low dose responses to chemicals “do occur in biological systems,” yet has still not begun regulating endocrine disrupters through a finalized Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program, as mandated by Congress in 1996.

Although eating organic provides immense benefits over chemically-intensive food production systems, it is critically important that consumers continue to pressure the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the National Organic Program to maintain organic integrity. In order to defend organic standards from changes that would weaken public trust, Beyond Pesticides launched the Save Our Organic campaign. Consumers can take action to ask their U.S. Representatives and Senators, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, and organic companies to support organic as a rigorous open process that holds its standards accountable to input and direction from those who produce and purchase organic food. Beyond Pesticides recently filed a petition to USDA to restore the authority of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB). The agency mistakenly reclassified the NOSB as a time-limited advisory board, despite its creation as an independent authority by Congress under the Organic Foods Production Act.

See Beyond Pesticides’ webpage on organic agriculture to learn more about the benefits of the production process, and why it is so important to defend its core values. TED-x, The Endocrine Disruption Exchange has additional details on the health impacts of low-dose endocrine disrupting chemicals, and or more information on the health effects of pesticide exposure, see Beyond Pesticides’ Pesticide Induced Diseases Database. To learn more about the environmental and worker benefits of organic production, see  Beyond Pesticides’ Eating with a Conscience.

Source: The New York Times, The Guardian

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14
Jul

Groups Oppose Trade Pact Proposals that Weaken Chemical Safety Protections

(Beyond Pesticides, July 14, 2014) In a letter Thursday, a broad array of major U.S. and European chemical safety, health, environmental, labor, consumer and other organizations, including Beyond Pesticides, expressed strong opposition to proposed rules for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) that could chill or roll back robust chemical safety standards on both sides of the Atlantic.

The letter was sent to U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman and EU Commissioner for Trade Karel de Gucht, in advance of the sixth round of TTIP negotiations, which are to begin in Brussels next week.

“EU and U.S. trade policy should not be geared toward advancing the chemical industry’s agenda at the expense of public health and the environment – but that appears to be exactly what is currently underway with TTIP,” the letter states. “The presence of toxic chemicals in our food, our homes, our workplaces, and our bodies is a threat to present and future generations, with staggering cost for society and individuals.”

At the upcoming TTIP negotiations, draft text will be presented for the first time for several of the proposed pact’s chapters that could directly undermine strong chemical safety rules. The texts will be kept secret from the public during negotiations, but the rules that would be established would be binding on the United States and EU member nations, with trade sanctions or cash fines ordered against domestic policies that do not comply with TTIP rules.

The letter highlights specific TTIP proposals that the U.S. and EU governments and industry interests have put forward that could chill U.S. efforts to strengthen chemical regulations while weakening tighter EU chemical protections. This includes a U.S. proposal for regulatory coherence that could “thwart the timely promulgation of important regulations” and an EU Regulatory Cooperation Council proposal that would require regulators to calculate “chemical regulations’ costs to transatlantic trade, not the benefits of such protective laws for society.”

The letter also rejects a controversial proposal – opposed by U.S. state legislators, some EU member states and a trans-partisan array of U.S. and EU civil society groups – to include “investor-state dispute settlement” terms in the TTIP. Already inclusion of such terms in other pacts has empowered corporations to circumvent domestic courts and directly challenge controls for the use of hazardous substances, pollution cleanup requirements and other chemical protections before extrajudicial tribunals authorized to order unlimited taxpayer compensation for violations of broad foreign investor “rights.” Such extraordinary provisions, according to the letter, “would force the public and their representatives to decide between compensating corporate polluters for lost profits due to stronger laws, or continuing to bear the health, economic and social burdens of pollution.”

The letter concludes by criticizing the negotiations’ lack of transparency: “In a deal where fundamental changes to sub-national, national and regional policies and lawmaking processes are being proposed and negotiated, the non-disclosure of TTIP negotiating positions or texts is inexcusable and inconsistent with the principles of a modern democracy.”

Beyond Pesticides continues to fight for strong, public protections against chemicals in our homes and environment and any form of legislation that would diminish the right of communities and individuals alike to establish protective laws, regulations, and standards.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides

Source: Press Release

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11
Jul

Bird Population Declines Linked to Neonicotinoid Pesticides, Adding to Previous Science

(Beyond Pesticides, July 11, 2014) In addition to previous research on the direct impacts of pesticides on pollinators and other beneficials, a recent study published by Dutch scientists establishes an additional indirect link between neonicotinoid use and insect-eating birds. The report, which came out on Wednesday, provides evidence that neonicotinoids, a class of systemic pesticides, are indirectly hurting larger creatures by reducing insect prey populations such as mosquitoes and beetles.

Researchers found that in certain areas of the Netherlands where water is contaminated with high concentrations of imidacloprid, a commonly used neonicotinoid, bird populations tend to decline by an average of 3.5 percent every year. Further analysis found that this spatial pattern of decline appeared only after the introduction of imidacloprid to the Netherlands in the mid-1990s, even after correcting for land-use changes that have been known to affect bird populations in farmland.

“To our surprise we did find a very strong effect on birds”, said lead author of the study, Caspar Hallmann, a Ph.D. student from Radboud University in the Netherlands, to Reuters. In fact, according to the study, which was published in the journal Nature, nine of 15 bird species studied only eat insects and all feed insects to their young. Mr. Hallmann added, “We cannot say this is proof (that the pesticide causes the decline in bird numbers) but we cannot explain the…decline of birds by any other factors.” The study also looked into other possible causes like pollution.

Bayer CropScience issued a speedy response expressing disagreement with the study findings. The company writes that the study did not “demonstrate that there is a causal link between the use of neonicotinoids and the development of bird populations in Europe.” The company went on to say that neonicotinoids “have gone through an extensive risk assessment which has shown that they are safe to the environment when used responsibly according to the label instructions.” The company, along with Syngenta, has been accused of forestalling attempts to ban neonicotinoids via the proposal of bee health plans that call for more research, implementing agricultural best management practices, and planting new habitat. These solutions fail to address the real problem that their products are highly toxic to bees.

The recent report titled “Worldwide Integrated Assessment (WIA),” undertaken by the Task Force on Systemic Pesticides, indicates otherwise. Twenty-nine scientists representing multiple disciplines analyzed over 800 peer-reviewed publications on the impacts of systemic pesticides. The report emphasizes that neonicotinoids and their metabolites are persistent and harmful, even at very low levels, and that the chemicals have far-reaching impacts on entire ecosystems, from direct exposure to persistence in soil and water. Bees, butterflies, worms, and other pollinators and non-target organisms are also put at risk. Scientists concluded that even when neonicotinoids were used according to guidelines on their labels, the chemicals’ levels in the environment still frequently exceeded the lowest levels known to be harmful to a wide range of species.

The European Union (E.U.) began implementation of a two-year moratorium in April on neonicotinoids used on flowering crops stemming from scientific evidence that the chemicals are harmful to bees. The pesticides can still be used legally in the E.U. on non-flowering crops, such as barley and wheat, the scientists said. Germany’s Bayer and Switzerland’s Syngenta, the two main producers of the pesticides, have contested the moratorium. They suspect that “colony collapse disorder,” which has resulted in the large drop in bee populations in Europe, Asia, the Americas, and the Middle East, are due to a virus spread by a parasitic mite. Opposition to neonicotinoid use remains strong, however. Syngenta recently withdrew its emergency application to allow the use of neonicotinoids on United Kingdom oilseed rape crops (known as canola in the U.S.) in face of public outcry. According to Reuters, over 200,000 people protested against the request, with around 35,000 more writing to environment secretary Owen Paterson.

The Dutch study recommends that future legislation consider and take into account the wider impact of pesticides on wildlife. Dave Goulson, Ph.D., of Sussex University, writes in a commentary in Nature that the study was “the first to provide direct evidence that the widespread depletion of insect populations by neonicotinoids has knock-on effects” on larger animals. Dr. Goulson has done work on the far-reaching effects neonicotinoids have on biodiversity and ecosystem health; a review of his from last year found that not only are neonicotinoids the most widely used insecticides in the world, but they persist and accumulate in soil, are prone to leaching into waterways, commonly exceed the LC50 (the concentration which kills 50% of individuals) for beneficial organisms, and the consumption of small numbers of treated seeds presents a direct risk of mortality in birds and mammals.

Sound familiar? The link between pesticide use and birds is not a new one. Rachel Carson’s book, Silent Spring, chronicled the profligate use of pesticides and their effects on the environment and on birds in particular. While Carson wrote specifically about DDT, an organochlorine pesticide, the message is similar – neonicotinoid pesticides effects have been shown to have widespread consequences on beneficial insects, the environment, and birds.

Read more about how neonicotinoids affect non-target organisms, or Pierre Mineau’s, Ph.D., in-depth presentation with the American Bird Conservancy on the impact of insecticides on birds. You can also visit our BEE Protective page to learn more about how honey bees and other pollinators are going through rapid population declines, and what you can do to help. Beyond Pesticides has joined with beekeepers and thousands of people and organizations to urge EPA to join the EU in restricting neonicotinoid pesticides.

Source: Reuters

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides

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10
Jul

Chemical Company Withdraws Challenge to EU Bee Protections from Neonics

(Beyond Pesticides, July 10, 2014) In the face of public outcry and protest, chemical-industry giant, Syngenta, has withdrawn its emergency application to allow the use of neonicotinoid pesticides on United Kingdom (UK) oilseed rape crops (known as canola in the U.S.). The application, filed earlier this year in anticipation of the UK canola growing season, claimed that canola farmers would suffer irreparable damage from pests without the use of neonicotinoids that had been banned under a temporary two-year European Union (EU). The EU’s directive that went into effect at the end of 2013 and will continue through 2015 was enacted to protect the severely declining and threatened bee populations —a problem throughout Europe and the world.

While many factors contribute to the bee decline, neonicotinoids, a relatively new class of pesticides, have been linked through numerous studies to the significant decline and were determined by the European Food Safety Authority to be a “high acute risk.” Neonicotinoids are often used as a seed coating on agricultural crops as well as in foliar applications, affecting bee and pollinator survival at several different levels. Whereas foliar applications can lead to mass-die offs and acute toxicity, systemic applications to seeds subject bees and other pollinators to continuous and destructive sublethal doses. Even at sublethal levels, the pesticides impair bees’ ability to learn, to find their way back to the hive, to collect food, to produce new queens, and to mount an effective immune response.

According to Reuters, over 200,000 people protested against the emergency application via a campaign website, with around 35,000 more writing to environment secretary Owen Paterson and asking ministers to “stand firm against Syngenta” and not let chemicals believed to be harmful to bee populations be used.

Protections for Pollinators and People Here at Home

Despite the victory for pollinators and public health across the pond, there continues to be a mounting pile of inaction and counter-protective measures happening in the U.S. concerning pollinators, neonicotinoids, and pesticides in general. For example, despite petitions, lawsuits, and pleas from beekeepers and other groups, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has failed to rein in the unnecessary use of neonicotinoid products. And, emergency petitions (like the one filed by Syngenta) for all kinds of pesticides, like the one filed by the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) for propazine, continue to threaten the few protections against dangerous chemicals that plague the environment and the species that depend on it.

During the close of National Pollinator Week, the White House issued a Presidential Memorandum on pollinator health to the heads of federal agencies requiring action to “reverse pollinator losses and help restore populations to healthy levels.” The President is directing agencies to establish a Pollinator Health Task Force, and to develop a National Pollinator Health Strategy, including a Pollinator Research Action Plan. Beyond Pesticides applauded this announcement and action that recognizes and elevates the plight of pollinators in the U.S. Download the Press Release.

Given that one in every three bites of food is dependent on pollination, and that commercial beekeeping adds between $20 to $30 billion dollars in economic value to agriculture each year in the U.S., it is imperative that action is taken to protect bees and other pollinators. Beyond Pesticides’ BEE Protective supports nationwide local action to protect honey bees and other pollinators from pesticides. Numerous educations materials are available to encourage municipalities, campuses, and homeowners to adopt policies that protect bees and other pollinators from harmful pesticide applications and create pesticide-free refuges for these beneficial organisms.

For more visit BEE Protective. Source: Reuters Image: “Close up of blooms on a canola plant near Yorkton, Saskatchewan” by Canada Hky

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

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09
Jul

National Pollinator Photo Contest Winners Announced!

(Beyond Pesticides, July 9, 2014) Beyond Pesticides is pleased to announce the winners of our first National Pollinator Photo Contest! The much anticipated three grand prize winners to be featured in the Fall issue of Pesticides and You are (pictured left to right below): Delbert Contival, in Kauai HI, with his photo “Bee loves Lotus Flower;” Darla Young, in Sheridan, AR with her photo: “Sitting pretty on a cone flower;” and Pierre Mineau, in Spring Island Canada, with his photo, “Bumble bees at St. John’s wort flowers in my backyard.

grand prize winners

Winners were chosen by guest judge Deborah Jones, art director for National Geographic Society. Because there were so many excellent shots, Ms. Jones remarked that it took much longer than she anticipated to judge the contest. “During my career at National Geographic as an art director, I have been privileged to work with the best photographs in the world. I am a lifetime gardener and photographer, and I am happy to be a judge for such an important organization, and to help promote the beauty and importance of pollinators,” said Ms. Jones, “This was quite a challenge, because there were so many outstanding photographs. I thought in terms of choosing an image that illustrates a story on pollinators. I looked for composition, focus on the subject, color and technical quality.”

In addition to having their photos printed in our newsletter, these three winners will receive a Beyond Pesticides 100% Organic Tote Bag and Honey Bee Pesticide Free Zone Sign!

Because it was so difficult to narrow down the selection of choices, in addition to the three grand prize winners, Ms. Jones also has a list of Runner Ups:

Runner Ups:

  1. Angela Coday, Nashville, TN: “Swallowtail butterfly in our garden”
  2. Devin Manky, North Vancouver, BC Canada: “Three Honey Bees work with propolis at the top of a hive on Grouse Mountain, BC”
  3. Kim Clymer-Kelley, Sierra Madre, CA: “Bee is for Bishop”
  4. Polly Pitsker, Gardnerbille, NV: “Butterfly feasting on a blossom in my garden, Gardnerville NV”
  5. Art Jacobson, Denver, CO: “A bee’s favorite place to bee!”
  6. Diane St John, Durham, CT: “Sphinx moth photo on phlox”
  7. Gina Howe, Kent, WA: “Bees and chives in Kent WA”
  8. Brian Stewart, Middletown, CT: “Soldier beetle, Chauliognathus marinates, on fleabane in my urban/suburban backyard lawn. A pest-eating pollinator!”
  9. David Inouye, Crested Butte: “A male Broad-tailed Hummingbird (Selasphorus platycercus) visiting a larkspur flower (Delphinium nuttallianum) in Colorado”
  10. Susan Jergens, Elkhorn, WI: “These were taken at a bank in Elkhorn”
  11. Ed Szymanski, Franklin, MA: “Black swallowtail on bee balm, backyard garden”
  12. Nancy Mcilroy, Irving, TX: “Eastern Tiger Swallowtail on Buttonbush – beauty in the wild”
  13. Sierra Castillo, Santa Rosa, CA: “A safe return to Pink Palace Honeybee retreat, Santa Rosa CA”
  14. Susan Quals, Algood, TN: “Black swallowtail butterfly on a thistle flower”

Beyond Pesticides would like to congratulate and thank everyone for submitting their photos, and making this first annual pollinator photo contest a wild success! To see even more beautiful pollinator photos, and Beyond Pesticides staff picks (just because there are so many beautiful photographs), see our Facebook Photo Album.

BEE Protective
With one in three bites of food reliant on bees and other insects for pollination, the decline of honey bees and other pollinators due to pesticides, and other man-made causes demands immediate action. As bees suffer serious declines in their populations, we urge people and communities to plant habitat that supports pollinator populations, and utilize our resources, including our newly launched pollinator-friendly organic seeds and plants directory as well as our BEE Protective Habitat Guide.

Visit Beyond Pesticides’ BEE Protective webpage to learn about more about pollinator protection and see what you can do to help.

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08
Jul

Late Breaking News: Groups Challenge California’s Approval of Bee-Killing Pesticides

State rubber stamps expanded usage before determining effects on crop pollinators

(Beyond Pesticides, July 8, 2014) Today, environmental and food safety groups challenged California’s illegal practice of approving new agricultural uses for neonicotinoid pesticides despite mounting evidence that the pesticides are devastating honeybees.

Pesticide Action Network, Center for Food Safety, and Beyond Pesticides, represented by Earthjustice, filed the legal challenge in the California Superior Court for the County of Alameda, urging the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) to stop approving neonicotinoid pesticides pending its completion of a comprehensive scientific review of impacts to honeybees.  DPR began its scientific review in early 2009 after it received evidence that neonicotinoids are killing bees, but five years later, DPR has yet to take meaningful action to protect bees.

Meanwhile, DPR has continued to allow increased use of neonicotinoids in California.  Today’s lawsuit challenges DPR’s June 13, 2014 decision to expand the use of two powerful neonicotinoid insecticides – sold under the trademarks Venom Insecticide and Dinotefuran 20SG – despite the agency’s still-pending review of impacts to pollinators.  The case underscores these larger problems with the DPR’s unwillingness to comply with laws enacted to ensure that pesticides do not threaten human health, agriculture, or the environment.

“State officials have approved pesticides time and time again, despite mounting scientific research and real-world evidence that neonicotinoids pose harm to bees,” said Paul Towers, Organizing & Media Director for Pesticide Action Network. “With no action in sight, we must take the state to court to protect bees, beekeepers and our food system.”

A growing body of independent science links a class of pesticides called neonicotinoids (neonics) to bee declines, both alone and in combination with other factors like disease and malnutrition. Twenty-nine independent scientists conducted a global review of 800 independent studies and found overwhelming evidence of pesticides linked to bee declines. Oregon officials also determined the neonic dinotefuran was the cause of two massive bumblebee kills in the state last year. In February 2014, the groups submitted a letter calling on the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) not to allow greater use of this pesticide.

“Unless halted, the use of these pesticides threatens not only the very survival of our pollinators, but the fate of whole ecosystems. Scientists have consistently documented widespread environmental contamination from neonicotinoids as they build up in our soil and waterways, especially in California. The DPR has a responsibility to step in and say no,” said Andrew Kimbrell, executive Director of Center for Food Safety.

“Bee and other pollinator populations are declining at unprecedented rates,” said Jay Feldman, Executive Director of Beyond Pesticides.  “They cannot afford to be subject to a toxic treadmill that fails to consider the full spectrum of cumulative impacts and risks threatening their very existence.  The treadmill must be stopped.”

“DPR has been saying for five years that neonicotinoid pesticides may be killing California’s honey bees, and yet the agency allows more and more of these pesticides to be used each year,” said Greg Loarie, an attorney at Earthjustice representing the groups who filed today’s lawsuit.  “It’s past time for DPR to fix its broken evaluation system and protect our bees and our agricultural economy.  It obviously will take legal action to accomplish this.”

One in every three bites of food depends on bees for pollination, and the annual value of pollination services worldwide are estimated at over $125 billion. In the United States, pollination contributes $20-30 billion in agricultural production annually. And in California alone, almonds crops — entirely dependent on bees for pollination — are valued at over $3 billion.

In December 2013, the European Union began a two-year moratorium on three of the most widely used neonicotinoids. Yet the U.S. EPA, working in coordination with Canadian and California officials, has refused to take any action until at least 2018.

Disappointed with the lack of a clear timeline for evaluating the harms of the pesticides, California legislators are currently advancing a bill (AB 1789) that would compel DPR to finish its review of neonicotinoids within the next two years. The bill will be taken up again when the legislature returns from recess in August.

For more information, contact:
Greg Loarie, Earthjustice, (415) 217-2000
Aimee Simpson, Beyond Pesticides, (202) 543-5450 ex. 19
Paul Towers, Pesticide Action Network, (916) 216-1082
Abigail Seiler, Center for Food Safety, (202) 547-9359

Source: Press Release

 

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08
Jul

Maine Town Votes to Ban Lawn Pesticides on Public and Private Property, Becoming Second to Act in Last Year

(Beyond Pesticides, July 8, 2014) In another key victory for public health and the environment, last month residents in the small ocean-side community of Ogunquit, Maine (pop:~1,400) voted to become the first town in the state to prohibit the use of pesticides on public and private property for turf, landscape, and outdoor pest management activities. Ogunquit’s ordinance makes the town the second local jurisdiction in the United States in the last year to ban pesticides on both public and private property, and the first to be passed by popular vote, 206 to 172. The ordinance, modeled in large part on the first private/public pesticide ban in Takoma Park, Maryland last year, was passed after a three-year education and awareness campaign, initiated by the town’s Conservation Commission. The law expands on existing pesticide use restrictions on town-owned property. The passage of this ordinance positions Ogunquit as a leader in the state for environmental sustainability and the protection of public health, and supports the Conservation Commission’s goals to ensure that the town’s popular beaches clean and healthy for all those that visit. The law’s stated purpose is to “conserve and protect the town’s ground water, estuarine, marine and other natural resources, while ensuring preservation of the land.”

As Ogunquit, ME and Takoma Park, MD show, there is a growing demand from local communities to regulate pesticides in a way that prevents the pollution of local waters, and stops putting residents at risk of pesticide-induced diseases. Of the 30 most commonly used lawn pesticides, 17 are possible and/or known carcinogens,  18 have the potential to disrupt the endocrine (hormonal) system, 19 are linked to reproductive effects and sexual dysfunction, 11 have been linked to birth defects, 14 are neurotoxic, 24 can cause kidney or liver damage, and 25 are sensitizers and/or irritants. Children are especially sensitive to pesticide exposure as they take in more pesticides relative to their body weight than adults and have developing organ systems that are more vulnerable and less able to detoxify toxic chemicals. Perhaps it is by providence that the north end of Ogunquit abuts the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge, named after the world-renowned marine biologist who was inspired by Maine’s pristine coasts in her book Edge of the Sea (1955) and encouraged the modern environmental movement with the publication of Silent Spring (1962), which details the damaging effects of chemical pesticide use on migratory birds and the environment.

Ogunquit’s ordinance makes tremendous strides in the protection of the unique salt marsh ecosystems and beaches surrounding the town, home to numerous migratory birds, fish, and mammals, and vernal pools which provide habitat for distinctive amphibians, reptiles and other sea life. Conservation Commission Chairman Mike Horn recounts that the ordinance was spurred by a complaint to the town council from a local resident who was experiencing constant pesticide exposure as a result of drift after lawn care company applications. While localities with state pesticide preemption law can put a stop to pesticide use on local-owned land, only private property bans can prevent these types of incidents from adversely affecting human health. The state of Maine is one of seven states that does not preempt (or create any impediment to) the authority of local political subdivisions to restrict pesticides throughout their jurisdictions more stringently than the state rules.

Other localities in Maine are interested in following Ogunquit’s lead. “It’s growing like Topsy,” says Chairman Horn. “We actually expected a lot more negativity because no one else had done this in the state.” Similar statements were made about Takoma Park’s law; Councilwoman Kay Daniels-Cohen urged activists, “You can take this to the next level. You can take it to the county, and keep going all the way through the state of Maryland…I think there are more people out there than you realize who are in your court.”

Despite the ordinance’s passage by a majority of the town’s voters, a procedural glitch has created a slight setback. Because the town did not contact the Maine Board of Pesticides Control seven days prior to the vote, the ordinance is “out in limbo,” according Chairman Horn. Although the state has no intention to negate a town’s rules and regulations, Ogunquit plans to come up with a way forward later this week to ensure that the ordinance can take effective, as intended by the voters, on January 1, 2015.

The pro-pesticide lobby took the town’s actions very seriously in the run-up to the vote. Last year, a similar ordinance narrowly failed by 6 votes. Prior to the election, a pesticide industry group called RISE (Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment) launched, by many accounts, an illegitimate and unlawful campaign to distribute flyers to homes of Ogunquit residents. RISE and other pesticide and chemical industry trade groups consistently lobby against localities rights to enact regulations that protect the health of their residents and unique local ecosystems. Groups such as RISE and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) fueled efforts in the 90’s to enact regressive state pesticide preemption laws that prevent localities from enacting any ordinance that regulates pesticides more strictly than state law. The role of local government in imposing pesticide use requirements is critically important to the protection of public health and the environment. This right was affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court in Wisconsin Public Intervenor, Town of Casey v. Mortier, June 21, 1991. In this case, the Court affirmed the rights of U.S. cities and towns to regulate pesticides that are not explicitly curtailed by state legislatures. The Court found that in conferring on states the authority to “regulate the sale and use of pesticides so long as the state regulation does not permit a sale or use prohibited by the Act [USC 136v(a)],” the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) “leaves the allocation of regulatory authority to the ‘absolute discretion’ of the states themselves, including the option of leaving local regulation of pesticides in the hands of local authorities.” After the Supreme Court ruling, the chemical industry, both manufacturer and service provider trade groups, went to state legislatures across the country and lobbied the states to take away or restrict the authority of local political subdivisions to restrict pesticide use on private property. Maine and Maryland, where the Takoma Park Safe Grow Act was passed, are two of the seven states that do not prohibit the adoption of local pesticide legislation. In protecting the rights of local political subdivisions within Maine to exercise their authority to impose pesticide use restrictions, the state is enabling the protection of the health and welfare of Maine residents.

Take action. Whether your state has preemption or not, you can still work to get toxics out of your community. It takes a lot of work and commitment, but it can be done with some perseverance. It’s important to find support –friends, neighbors, and other people who share your concerns about environmental health. It’s also essential to reach out to your local politicians and government. Beyond Pesticides has resources and factsheets available to help you organize in your community. You can also call (202-543-5450) or email (info@beyondpesticides.org) for one-on-one consultation about the strategies you can take to have an impact.

Source: SeaCoastOnline, Ogunquit Conservation Commission

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07
Jul

Intersex Fish in Pennsylvania Watersheds Linked to Agricultural Run-off of Endocrine Disruptors

(Beyond Pesticides, July 7, 2014) A study led by the U.S. Geological Service (USGS) finds intersex fish in three watersheds of Pennsylvania and shows strong connections between these occurrences and increased pollution in waterways from endocrine-disrupting chemicals.

The study, Reproductive Health Indicators of Fish from Pennsylvania Watersheds: Associations with Chemicals of Emerging Concern, examined three species of fish in three separate watersheds of Pennsylvania to assess whether characteristics caused by hormones and hormone-mimicking compounds, such as immature eggs in male fish, were present. In aquatic environments, the presence of these intersex characteristics is widely used as a biomarker for assessing exposure to estrogenic chemicals, as well as anti-androgenic chemicals which inhibit development of male characteristics.

Male smallmouth bass from all sites sampled had immature eggs in their testes; prevalence was lowest in the Ohio drainage, intermediate in the Delaware and highest in the Susquehanna. While these findings were disturbing in and of themselves, the study was also able to draw a connection to the increased presence of intersex characteristics and areas of high agricultural use.

“The prevalence and severity of the immature eggs in smallmouth bass corresponded with the percent of agricultural land use in the watershed above the collection sites,” said Vicki Blazer, PhD, a research fish biologist and lead author of the study. “Chemical compounds associated with estrogenic endocrine disruption, in particular estrone, a natural estrogen, were also associated with the extent and severity of these effects in bass.”

In other words, sites in the Susquehanna drainage had a higher prevalence and severity of these effects than sites in the Ohio drainage and when compared against the percentage of agricultural land use, which is higher in the Susquehanna, a link was established.

Interestingly, the same connection could not be drawn from the data concerning waste water treatment plants, leading researchers to conclude that there was no significant relationship between the number of waste water treatment plants and the prevalence of immature eggs in male fish. Data did show, however, that the severity of intersex characteristics of male small mouth bass generally increased at downstream sites from waste water treatment plants.

“The sources of estrogenic chemicals are most likely complex mixtures from both agricultural sources, such as animal wastes, pesticides and herbicides, and human sources from waste water treatment plant effluent and other sewage discharges,” said Dr. Blazer.

Endocrine Disruption and Agriculture: Not Only a Problem for Fish

If you are wondering why such a strong correlation could be drawn between agricultural use and water contaminated by endocrine-disrupting chemicals, then one need only look to the nation’s environmental law responsible for water pollution control and the chemical-intensive practices common to most conventional forms of agriculture. Under the Clean Water Act (CWA), agriculture is exempt from most water pollution standards and permitting requirements—even when it comes to pesticides. This leaves one of the largest sources of all kinds of pollutants completely unfettered and free to pollute, significantly contributing to everything from algal blooms and dead zones to intersex fish and pesticide contamination.

In fish and humans, endocrine disrupting effects include direct effects on traditional endocrine glands, their hormones and receptors such as estrogens, anti-androgens, and thyroid hormones, as well as signaling cascades that affect many of the body’s systems, including reproductive function and fetal development, the nervous system and behavior, the immune and metabolic systems, the liver, bones and many other organs, glands and tissues. Hundreds of scientific articles have been published across the globe demonstrating how a broad selection of chemicals can interfere with the normal development at all ranges of exposure. Scientists discovered effects for some widely used chemicals at concentrations thousands of times less than federal “safe” levels of exposure derived through traditional toxicological tests. Whatever the exposure level, neither fish nor human are protected from most endocrine-disrupting chemicals present in our waterways.

Beyond Pesticides continues to fight for improved protections against water pollution and harmful agricultural practices. Please visit our webpage, Threatened Waters, to learn more about this issue and what you can do to help change the tide of pesticide contamination in waters.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: USGS; LiveScience

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03
Jul

Tell EPA by End of Today: Don’t Bail Out Genetically Engineered Cotton with a Toxic Pesticide

(Beyond Pesticides, July 3, 2014) It was predictable that genetically engineered (GE) cotton sprayed with the weedkiller glyphosate (Roundup) would create resistant superweeds. Now that it has, Texas GE cotton growers recently requested an emergency use of a chemical cousin to atrazine, the herbicide that is demasculinizing frogs by disrupting the endocrine system– on 3 million acres of cotton fields where the weeds have become resistant to the chemical of choice –glyphosate.

Stop the GE Pesticide Treadmill! Use Beyond Pesticides’ sample comments for guidance.

Help stop the GE treadmill and the use of hazardous pesticides. Join Beyond Pesticides in fighting this predictable “emergency” use because it exemplifies EPA’s practice of allowing increasing dependency on highly toxic pesticides in agricultural systems that are predictably unsustainable, harmful to people and the environment, and for which there are safe alternatives. This situation is the same toxic treadmill and thinking that is ushering in new 2,4-D-tolerant corn to replace Roundup Ready corn. Emergency exemptions and the use of increasingly toxic herbicides must not be the norm for communities and our environment.

Can you help us stop EPA from propping up the failed GE agricultural system? Submit your comment by midnight July 3.

Government does not make commenting easy. So, copy the comment below and then click here to paste it in the comment field or, better, write a comment in your own words. [See Beyond Pesticides' draft comments.]

SAMPLE COMMENT:

I urge EPA to deny the petition from the Texas Department of Agriculture seeking an emergency exemption for the use of the herbicide propazine to control 3 million acres of glyposate-resistant Palmer amaranth. The risks posed by this chemical far outweigh any short-term benefits. Propazine is a toxic herbicide that has been linked to developmental and reproductive toxicity. As part of the triazine family, it has a toxicological profile similar to atrazine, a well-documented hormone disruptor which has also been linked to birth defects, increased risk of breast cancer, and demasculinization of amphibians and other wildlife. Like atrazine, propazine has a strong potential to contaminate groundwater. Its use on 3 million acres of Texas land will undoubtedly increase the levels of this chemical in waterways, a use pattern unaccounted for in previous assessments of propazine. Emergency exemptions under Section 18 of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) cannot be granted without accurate health, ecological, and environmental risk assessments that also take into account the cumulative uses of atrazine and simazine in the state.
According to EPA, under Section 18 of FIFRA an emergency exemption is defined as “an urgent, non-routine situation…” As the agency is aware, glyphosate-resistant weeds, in particular Palmer amaranth, have been documented for several years with increasing frequency and thus must not be considered a “non-routine” or emergency situation. Since 1996, several emergency exemptions for propazine have been requested on sorghum, with roughly half being denied, because EPA must deny a request for emergency exemption if the pesticide does not meet safety standards, or if the emergency criteria are not met. Like these previous denials, EPA must again issue a denial of this latest request.

Sincerely,

—————————————————

Beyond Pesticides, representing  environmental, public health, and organic farm interests, has asked the U.S. Environmental Protection (EPA) to deny an emergency request by Texas cotton growers to use a controversial pesticide on genetically engineered (GE) cotton to control weeds that are now resistant to the chemical they have been using, Roundup (glyphosate). Approximately 90% of cotton grown in Texas is genetically engineered or known as a genetically modified organism (GMO). The request, which comes through the Texas Department of Agriculture, seeks an allowance on 3 million acres for the highly toxic pesticide propazine, not registered for use on cotton.

“In the true sense, this is not an emergency because the weed resistance is predictable since it has been known for many years that GE cotton sprayed with the weedkiller glyphosate (Roundup) would create resistant superweeds,” said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides, which filed comments opposing emergency status for propazine use. “It is an abuse of the law for EPA to prop up failed GE cropping systems with toxic chemicals when the crop can be grown with organic methods not reliant on toxic pesticides and just as productive and profitable,” he said. Beyond Pesticides opposes 2,4-D tolerant cotton that GE cotton growers are expecting to be available in a year because of the human and environmental hazards, expected increased 2,4-D use, followed by predictable weed resistance.

Propazine is a toxic herbicide in the triazine class of chemicals that has been linked to developmental and reproductive toxicity. Another triazine herbicide, atrazine is linked to birth defects, increases the risk for mammary cancer, and has been shown to demasculinize frogs by disrupting the endocrine system. There is concern that increased use of another member of the toxic triazine chemical family presents unacceptable human and environmental health hazards.

The triazines are highly soluble in water and are the most frequently detected pesticides found at concentrations at or above one or more benchmarks in over half of sites sampled. Increasing propazine use on over 3 million acres in Texas will undoubtedly increase propazine movement into waterways, potentially threatening the safety of Texas’ surface and drinking water.

See Beyond Pesticides’ comments.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

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02
Jul

Few Doctors Educate Pregnant Women on Dangers of Environmental Toxins

(Beyond Pesticides, July 2, 2014) According to a new study, few obstetricians offer their pregnant patients advice on how to avoid environmental toxins that might harm their babies, even though doctors recognize that exposure to chemicals like pesticides, bisphenol-A (BPA), and metals can affect a pregnancy. The study recommends that the medical community improve medical education and training, develop recommendations for prevention and less toxic alternatives, as well as lend support to policy change.

The first of its kind study of prenatal counselling, published in the journal PLOS ONE, Counseling Patients on Preventing Prenatal Environmental Exposures – A Mixed-Methods Study of Obstetricians, found that U.S. obstetricians and gynaecologists feel they lack the medical education and training, and evidence-based guidelines and tools for communicating potential environmental risks to patients. Exposure to environmental toxins, the researchers from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) found, is rarely discussed with pregnant patients, even though a national survey shows that 80 percent of physicians agree they should play a part in reducing patients’ exposure to toxins. But, of the 2,500 respondents, only one in five routinely asked their patients about these exposures, and just one in 15 said they received training on the harmful reproductive effects of toxic chemicals.

Survey participants believe that environmental exposures are important and that reproductive health professionals had a role in prevention. However, this concern did not translate into clinical practice. Few respondents reported routine counseling about exposure to environmental chemicals known to be harmful to reproductive health, and most felt ill-prepared to deal routinely with the issue. Many doctors felt they have a limited amount of time to talk, and more immediate concerns like vitamin intake and sexual health are often at the top of patients’ priority lists.

Pregnant women, studies have found, carry a toxic soup of hazardous chemicals in their bodies including high levels of organophosphate pesticides, endocrine disrupting compounds including triclosan, BPA and phthalates. A CDC study, Environmental Chemicals in Pregnant Women in the US: NHANES 2003-2004, found almost all –99 to 100 percent– of the pregnant women sampled carry in their polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), organochlorine pesticides, perfluorinated compounds, phenols like triclosan, polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), phthalates, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and perchlorate.Recent research has shown that environmental toxins can have profound effects on fetal development. Numerous studies have reported birth defects and developmental problems when fetuses and infants are exposed to pesticides, especially exposures that adversely affect mental and motor development during infancy and childhood.  For instance, pesticides like chlorpyrifos  have been shown to pose risks to babies exposed in the womb to brain abnormalities after birth.

A study published recently in Environmental Health Perspectives shows that pesticide exposure can increase a woman’s risk of giving birth to a child with autism. Another study found that maternal exposure to air pollution is associated with low birth weight in infants. Other areas of concern include exposure to bisphenol A (BPA) in household plastics and flame retardant chemicals in fabrics.

Doctors in this new study reported in focus groups that they felt pregnant women were already stressed about reproductive and developmental health issues, and that doctors did not want to burden them further with conversations about toxins. Similarly, providers who care for lower-income women feel that they have limited time and more pressing issues to cover, such as poor diet, poverty and psycho-social stressors. However, according to the authors of the study, this fear may be unwarranted, as biomonitoring studies have shown that women want to know and can react in a productive way to information about potentially harmful exposures

The authors put forward several recommendations to pregnant women to reduce their exposures, including switching to organic food, and choosing less toxic alternatives for pest control and household cleansers. They also acknowledged that women with occupational exposures have limited legal protections, as regulations do not always recognize well-documented chronic health impacts. However, doctors can help reduce harmful exposures for pregnant women by lending their support for policy change. See commentary on the proposed revisions to the Worker Protection Standards.

In 2012, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released a landmark policy statement, Pesticide Exposure in Children, and an accompanying technical report on the effects of pesticide exposure in children. The AAP highlighted current shortfalls in medical training, public health tracking, and regulatory action on pesticides. This report provided recommendations to both pediatricians and government health agencies. Similarly, AAP made a previous policy statement citing the benefits of eating organic food in order to reduce pesticide exposure, especially in children.

In 2008, Beyond Pesticides, Maryland Pesticide Network, and leading Maryland health and elder care facilities released Taking Toxics out of Maryland’s Health Care Sector: Transition to Green Pest Management Practices to Protect Health and the Environment, a report that documented practices and policies to eliminate toxic pesticide use. Since this report, Beyond Pesticides and Maryland Pesticide Network have worked with hospital and administrative officials to move away from using toxic pesticides and implement a defined Integrated Pest Management strategy (IPM) in their facilities, as well as educate new mothers on the importance of reducing pesticide use and exposures.
For more information on Beyond Pesticides Healthy Hospital program, please visit our Healthy Hospitals page, and for how pesticides affect children, visit the Pesticide-Induced Disease Database.

Source: Health-Line

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

 

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01
Jul

Maui County Moves Forward with GE Moratorium Initiative

(Beyond Pesticides, July 1, 2014) Early last month, Maui County residents gathered enough signatures to require a county-wide vote on legislation that will put in place a moratorium on the planting of genetically engineered (GE) crops. This achievement represents the first ever citizen driven initiative in Maui County, which encompasses Maui, Molokai and Lanai islands. The petition drive was spearheaded by the SHAKA (Sustainable Hawaiian Agriculture for the Keiki and the Aina) Movement, a grassroots campaign that is “preserving paradise for future generation by reclaiming, restoring and revitalizing depleted soil, and growing healthy foods without a dependence on chemicals,” according to Mark Sheehan, a spokesman for the group.

Maui’s citizen initiative is part of a growing movement on the Hawaiian Islands that seeks to protect health and the environment while strengthening local food economies and resiliency. Residents living on the Hawaiian Islands are subject to a particularly pronounced form of environmental assault, as the state’s premiere growing conditions have made it a prime target for agrichemical companies to test new, experimental forms of GE crops. Data released earlier this year reveals that high levels of restricted use pesticides, in some cases almost double the pounds per acre average of other states, are being used in Kauai County. Residents of the Hawaiian Islands that live, work, or go to school near these fields are subject to incessant pesticide spraying, as the climate provides a year-round growing season for GE crops. A May 2014 report found 25 herbicides, 11 insecticides and 6 fungicides in Hawaii’s waterways, underscoring resident concerns for both the land and human health.

The SHAKA movement faced a steep climb in gathering petition signatures, as Maui’s law only allows citizen initiatives if signatures are collected from 20 percent of residents who voted in the county’s last election. Over 9,000 valid signatures were collected by the group, more than enough to place the measure on the ballot. Before heading to the voting booth, however, the ordinance moves to the county council, which has two months to decide whether to enact the initiative or bring it to a vote in November. The citizen bill was referred to the county committee on intergovernmental affairs, which earlier this year failed to move legislation that would have require fewer restrictions for GE plantings than the current initiative. So if previous action from the council is any indication, it is likely that Maui residents will be deciding the fate of this bill.

Late last year, Kauai, Hawaii became the first locality in the nation to enact restrictions on the planting of genetically modified crops and the associated use of hazardous pesticides. Hawaii County (The Big Island) also passed a bill that banned the open growing of any new GE organisms. Although both of these bills were a response to an outpouring of public support for increased health protections from GE crops and associated pesticide use, they were hard fought, as agrichemical companies worked furiously to lobby local and state leaders to weaken or drop the bills. And even after hard-won passage, agrichemical giants have continued their assault on the rights of localities, suing both Kauai and Hawaii County. Apart from lawsuits and lobbying, agrichemical companies have been pouring money into political candidates in an effort to sway or stop legislation that restricts GE agriculture. The Center for Media and Democracy put together a break-down of agrichemical industry spending in the state.

Despite the deep pockets of the agrichemical industry, residents both in Hawaii and across the United States continue to raise their voices for increased protections from GE crops and the hazardous pesticide use that is associated with their planting. If Maui’s measure ultimately goes to the ballot, the county won’t be the first U.S locality that gets a chance to bar the planting of GE crops. In May, Jackson and Josephine County, Oregon voted overwhelmingly to ban the cultivation, production, and distribution of GE crops within their borders. “We fought the most powerful and influential chemical companies in the world and we won,” said Elise Higley, a Jackson County farmer and representative from Our Family Farms Coalition told Oregon Live. The fights may be long, drawn out, and grueling, but concerned residents continue to stand up for common sense protections in order to safeguard the health of themselves, their families, their community members, and the unique areas in which they live.

You can support the SHAKA Movement by visiting them through their website. Additional background on the fight for increased protections on the Hawaiian Islands, including testimony Beyond Pesticides provided in support of Kauai’s Bill 2491, can be found here. For more information on the hazards that continue to be associated with the growth of GE agriculture, see Beyond Pesticides Genetic Engineering webpage.

Source: Civil Beat, SHAKA Movement

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30
Jun

Pesticide Production Leaves a Legacy of Poisoning and Contamination

(Beyond Pesticides, June 30, 2014) Decades later there are still horrifying impacts from a legacy of dumping in the environment tens of thousands of pounds of chemical waste used in the production of pesticides. The production  by the Hooker Chemical Company of C-56, the progenitor of many now banned organochlorine pesticides, has resulted in contamination and hardship. Beyond Pesticides has long advocated for the elimination of hazardous synthetic pesticides, due to unnecessary risks that put the health of both people and entire communities in jeopardy.

Long after the Depression Era in Montague, MI, there were still many families who were left jobless and looking for any means to bring back a better life. The town decided to stimulate the local economy by recruiting Hooker Electrochemical Company; a chemical manufacturer originally based in New York, where it had been using an old canal bed for disposal of waste in the 1940s and was looking for a new site to build a chlor-alkali plant. Ninety-six percent of local residents signed the petition to bring them in. The situation was perfect for Hooker, which needed the vast underground reserves of salt and the lake water in the town for cooling during its industrial pesticide manufacturing processes. According to a local attorney, Winton Dahlstrom, “Hooker had been welcomed into the community because as individuals they were well-educated, well-spoken and nobody at the time had any idea what the attitude of industry was toward our natural environment.”

In the 1980s, three individuals, Marjory Erdman, Beth Manchesky and Kristy Anderson, all from Montague, MI had formed a friendship at very early age, and had grown up, got married and started families, remaining very close. One day in 2010 they were all having lunch together and it was discovered each one had a deadly disease that was predicted to cut their lives short. Kristy had a rare sarcoma, Beth had a rare form of mantle cell lymphoma, and Marjory had developed a rare cancer in her uterus. They all had one thing in common, living in the same town that had a history of industrial pollution. However, they found, they were not the only ones having these problems. Many other longtime residents can list their family members and friends with similar health problems as well. Sadly, this affected a boy, Zachary Peterson, who was only 15 years old and diagnosed with a rare hepatocellular carcinoma (liver cancer), which usually affects men in their 50’s whose liver is damaged.

“There is a good chance it’s from the environment — that either the water or the air or something in our environment (contributed),” said Zachary’s father. “But how do you prove it?”

A couple years back, Claire Schlaff took it upon herself to answer this question. After the death of her son at age 35, she began to collect information that would possibly help answer some of the questions that arose within the community. Along with a few volunteers, they began the White Lake Cancer Mapping Project, which collected information on people who lived in the area and who had been diagnosed or died from cancer. With the information collected, they were able to track the cases over time and establish a pattern. She had to often deliver bad news to those looking for closure and links between the environment and the death of a loved one. “It’s very difficult when you’re talking about exposure to chemicals in the environment and proving they have caused any individual illness,” she said. “There are lots of reasons, starting with the people. Every person comes to the table with different hereditary genetics and disposition to disease. While you can have a group of people exposed to a chemical, all at the same level and same time, each person will react differently.”

Another individual during the late 1970s to the early 1980s, James Truchan, was given the task of investigating the company. He became convinced that the issues could be directly related to the chemical compound C-56. “C-56 as a compound is extremely toxic,” he said. “It’s extremely mutagenic and it’s also fetotoxic. It’s extremely bad stuff. My only hope is that people exposed to it don’t have some kind of detrimental health effects down the road from it 20, 30 or 40 years from now.” (Compound 56) C-56, also known as hexachlorocyclopentadiene, is an organochlorine compound from which many now banned pesticides, including DDT, methoxychlor, dieldrin, chlordane, toxaphene, mirex, kepone, lindane, and benzene hexachloride which are derived and produced.

Organochlorine compounds contain at least one covalently bonded (sharing one electron pair) atom of chlorine. They are highly persistent organic pollutants (POPs), resistant to degradation. Organochlorines are of particular concern to human and environmental health because they are highly fat soluble and bioaccumulate throughout the food chain. In 2011, a study was published in the journal Pediatrics, in which researchers suggest that the changes in infants sizes at birth are due to the chemicals’ interference with hormones of the thyroid, a part of the endocrine system that regulates growth and development.

Although DDT has historically received the most press of all the organochlorine pesticides, this class of chemicals encompasses a large number of pesticides, most of which are no longer registered for use in the U.S., but still enter the country on imported food, transcontinental drift, or as contaminants in other pesticides. These chemicals, while inducing various harmful health effects, have in common their persistence in the environment and human bodies. In 2010, the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) took action to end all of the uses of endosulfan, an organochlorine has is still used in the U.S. on apples and some fruits, and tomatoes and other vegetable crops, but banned in over 20 countries. While many uses are phasing out, EPA, which negotiates decisions with chemical companies and typically agrees to long phase-out periods on highly hazardous pesticides, has a phase-out plans for endosulfan that still allows the following: Florida – Use ends December 31, 2014 – All Florida uses on:  apple, blueberry, peppers, potatoes, pumpkins, sweet corn, tomato, winter squash; Use ends July 31, 2015 –  apple, blueberry, peppers, potatoes, pumpkins, sweet corn, tomato, winter squash; Use ends July 31, 2016 - livestock ear tags, pineapple, strawberry (perennial/biennial)
vegetable crops for seed (alfalfa, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, chinese cabbage, collard greens, kale, kohlrabi, mustard greens, radish, rutabaga, turnip).

Lindane, another organochlorine still registered for use as an anti-lice shampoo in the U.S., has been banned in California and is under consideration for severe restrictions in the Michigan Senate. Beyond Pesticides and public health advocates continue to call for a complete phase-out remaining organochlorine chemicals given evidence of their persistence and harmful effects on health and the environment.

A key element of the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA), which provides the statutory foundation for the USDA organic food label, is an evaluation of the production processes associated with inputs allowed to be used in organic production and processing. Situations like the poisoning and contamination of Montague, MI by a chemical company producing chemicals used in pesticides or other processing/production aids provides the basis for OFPA’s statutory requirement that any synthetic material allowed to be used in the organic production or processing of organic food must be evaluated to ensure that it does not adversely affect health or the environment. The story of Montague frames a key aspect of the organic law, distinct from any other food safety law. Compliance with organic law offers a response to polluting practices, but there is tremendous pressure coming from USDA and the Organic Trade Association to weaken the rigor with which synthetic materials are reviewed and, therefore, the integrity of the organic food label. Please see Beyond Pesticides’ Save Our Organic campaign and learn what you can do and more about the details.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: The Detroit News, The Alicia Patterson Foundation, Report on Carcinogens 12 Edition, Wikipedia

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27
Jun

Roundup Resistance Spurs Texas Push for Emergency Use of Controversial Herbicide on GE Cotton

(Beyond Pesticides, June 27, 2014) The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is considering a request by Texas regulators to allow the use of a controversial herbicide, propazine, to battle Palmer amaranth, a glyphosate-resistant “super weed” that has been plaguing growers of genetically engineered (GE) herbicide-tolerant cotton in the state. Propazine, an active ingredient in Milo-Pro, would be sprayed on up to 3 million acres, which amounts to approximately half of the state’s estimated crop acreage for this season. As currently proposed, the maximum amount of product to be applied would be 70,314 gallons.

The Texas Department of Agriculture, on behalf of chemical-intensive GE cotton growers, asked EPA last month for an exemption to permit growers to spray fields with the herbicide this summer in order to control this highly invasive plant, also known as pigweed. Pigweed can grow up to 3 inches a day and is one of many plant species that has developed a resistance to glyphosate, a systemic herbicide found in Roundup that has become one of the most widely used pesticides on the market. Public comments are due by July 3, 2014.

The occurrence of super weeds coincides strongly with the use of toxic herbicides on genetically engineered (GE) crops. According to one study, “Impacts of genetically engineered crops on pesticide use in the U.S. — the first sixteen years,” author Charles Benbrook, Ph.D. writes that the emergence and spread of glyphosate resistant-weeds is strongly correlated with the upward trajectory of herbicide use. This makes Texas’s push to use propazine all the more troubling, as it would contribute to a “pesticide treadmill,” or positive feedback loop, generating new super weeds and necessitating the use of increasingly more toxic chemicals to control them. Emergency exemptions have already been granted to compensate for the failure of glyphosate-tolerant, Roundup Ready (RR) crops. EPA allowed the unregistered use of the herbicide fluridone on GE cotton in order to battle pigweed back in Arkansas in 2012.  More disturbingly, Dow Chemical has been promoting its 2,4-D-tolerant corn and soybean varieties to replace RR crops. Subsequently, the use of 2,4-D, a highly toxic herbicide, on these GE crops has been estimated to increase 1.75-3 times current use, with independent estimates much higher.

A number of environmental groups, including Beyond Pesticides, oppose the propazine proposal on the basis that the pesticide presents a potential risk to human health. Propazine is a restricted-use pesticide that requires a license to purchase and apply, according to Milo-Pro’s manufacturer. Propazine is also closely related to atrazine, an herbicide used by corn growers that is banned in the European Union. A number of studies conducted by Tyrone Hayes, Ph.D., of the University of California, Berkeley, cite that atrazine can disrupt sexual reproduction in certain frog species. Studies that investigated the effects of subchronic and chronic exposure to propazine found that a variety of animal species were shown to exhibit neuroendocrine effects resulting in both reproductive and developmental consequences that are considered relevant to humans. In 1989, EPA classified propazine as a Group “C” (possible human carcinogen) chemical on the basis of “significant increases in mammary gland adenomas and adenomas/carcinomas in female Sprague-Dawley rats. The EPA used the Q1* approach with Q1*= 4.45 x 10-2 based on the Multi-Stage Weib model using a 3/4 scaling factor” (EPA Pesticide Fact Sheet, 1998). More than 15 years later, EPA reversed this classification. The Agency had received mode of action data on the ability of atrazine to induce mammary tumors in rats through the neuroendocrine mechanism of toxicity the chemical shares with propazine, which lead to the conclusion that the events leading to tumor formation are species/strain specific and therefore not operative in humans. As a result, EPA reclassified atrazine in 2000 as “not likely to be carcinogenic to humans.” Propazine was similarly reclassified in 2005 on the evidence that it is not genotoxic and operates via a mode of action for mammary and pituitary tumor development in female rats similar to atrazine. Interestingly enough, the California Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) has issued a notice of intent to list propazine and atrazine under Proposition 65, which requires the state to regulate chemicals known to cause cancer, birth defects, or other reproductive harm and forces manufacturers to label their products to warn consumers.

Pursuing sustainable alternatives can prevent the pesticide treadmill that results from the overuse of GE crops and pesticides like propazine. Integrated pest management strategies, organic practices, and solutions that are not chemical-intensive would be the most appropriate and long-term solution to battling pigweed. Additionally, organic agriculture is an ecologically-based management system that prioritizes cultural, biological, mechanical production practices, and natural inputs. By strengthening on-farm resources, such as soil fertility, pasture and biodiversity, organic farmers can minimize and even avoid the production challenges that most genetically engineered organisms have been falsely-marketed as solving. To learn more about organic agriculture, see Beyond Pesticides Organic Program Page.

Please consider submitting public comments against the issuance of this emergency exemption by July 3, 2014.

Learn more about toxic pesticides and their effects on health by checking out Beyond Pesticide’s Pesticide-Induced Diseases Database. You can also read more about genetic engineering, including latest news, here.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, EPA

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides

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26
Jun

Study Finds Majority of “Bee-Friendly” Plants Sold at Garden Stores Contaminated with Bee-Killing Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides, June 26, 2014) Over half of the “bee-friendly” home garden plants sold at garden supply centers such as Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Walmart have been pre-treated with pesticides shown to harm and kill bees, according to a study released yesterday by Friends of the Earth, Beyond Pesticides and allies.

The study, Gardeners Beware 2014, shows that 36 out of 71 (51 percent) of garden plant samples purchased at top garden retailers in 18 cities in the United States and Canada contain neonicotinoid (neonic) pesticides — a key contributor to recent bee declines. Some of the flowers contained neonic levels high enough to kill bees outright and concentrations in the flowers’ pollen and nectar are assumed to be comparable. Further, 40% of the positive samples contained two or more neonics.Gardeners Beware FB - R3

Gardeners Beware 2014 is a larger follow up to a first-of-its-kind pilot study co-released by Friends of the Earth, Beyond Pesticides, and other groups last August. The new study expanded the number of samples and number of locations where plants were purchased, and also assessed the distribution of neonic pesticides between flowers and the rest of the plant.

“Our data indicate that many plants sold in nurseries and garden stores across the U.S. and Canada are being pre-treated with systemic neonicotinoid insecticides, making them potentially toxic to pollinators,” said Timothy Brown, Ph.D., co-author of the report from the Pesticide Research Institute. “Unfortunately, these pesticides don’t break down quickly so these plants could be toxic to bees for years to come.”

The Problem with Neonics

Bees and other pollinators, essential for the two-thirds of the food crops humans eat every day, are in decline in countries around the world. The European Union banned the three most widely used neonicotinoids, based on strong science indicating that neonics can kill bees outright and make them more vulnerable to pests, pathogens and other stressors.

This data adds to a new meta-analysis of 800 peer-reviewed studies released yesterday by the Task Force on Systemic Pesticides – a group of global, independent scientists – confirming neonics as a key factor in bee declines and harm to beneficial organisms essential to functional ecosystems and food production, including soil microbes, butterflies, earthworms, reptiles, and birds. The Task Force called for immediate regulatory action to restrict neonicotinoids.

Neonicotinoid insecticides have been responsible for several high profile bee kills from high doses of the pesticides, but a strong and growing body of science shows that neonics contribute to impairment in reproduction, learning and memory, hive communications and immune response at doses far below those that cause bee kills. In this study, all of the nursery plant samples where neonics were detected have the potential to harm or even kill bees.

Despite these serious issues and calls for action surrounding pollinator health and the dangers linked to neonics, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has delayed taking substantive action on neonicotinoids until registration review is complete, forcing consumers, some retailers, and even legislators to find alternative efforts to stem the tide of neonics and protect pollinators.

Consumer Action

Advocates ask that consumers choose not only “bee-friendly” plants, meaning those plants and flowers shown to attract and sustain pollinators, but also make sure that those plants are sourced from growers and suppliers that do not apply neonics to the seed or the plant. The easiest way to ensure that seeds are not treated with neonics is to buy seeds that are certified organic or plants grown with organic practices. To assist consumers in making the best choice for pollinator protections, Beyond Pesticides has launched the Pollinator-Friendly Seed Directory, a comprehensive list of companies that sell organic seeds to the general public. Toxic pesticides harmful to bees, including neonics, are not permitted in seeds certified organic, which display the USDA Organic label on their packaging. Included in this directory are seeds for vegetables, flowers, and herbs. As bees suffer serious declines in their populations, we urge people and communities to plant habitat that supports pollinator populations, and have provided information to facilitate this in our BEE Protective Habitat Guide, as well as our how-to guide on managing landscapes with pollinators in mind.

“The high percentage of contaminated plants and their neonicotinoid concentrations suggest that this problem continues to be widespread,” said Lisa Archer, director of the Food & Technology program at Friends of the Earth-U.S. “Most gardeners have no idea that their gardens may be a source of harm to bees. We’re calling on retailers to get neonicotinoid pesticides out of their plants and off their shelves as soon as possible. Until then, gardeners should buy organic plants to ensure the safety of bees.”

Retailer Action

While a majority of the UK’s largest garden retailers, including Homebase, B&Q and Wickes, have already voluntarily stopped selling neonics, U.S. retailers lag behind.

More than half a million Americans have signed petitions demanding that Lowe’s and Home Depot stop selling neonics. In the face of mounting evidence and growing consumer demand, nearly a dozen nurseries, landscaping companies and retailers, are taking steps to eliminate bee harming pesticides from their garden plants and their stores. BJ’s Wholesale Club, with more than 200 locations in 15 states, announced June 25, 2014 that it will require its vendors to disallow neonic in plant production by the end of 2014 and/or require warning labels for plants treated with neonics.

“A growing number of responsible retailers have decided to be part of the solution to the bee crisis and are taking bee-harming pesticides off their shelves,” said Archer. “We urge Home Depot, Lowe’s and other major retailers to join these leaders in making our backyards and communities safe havens for bees.”

Legislative and Executive Action

In 2013, U.S Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and John Conyers (D-Mich.) introduced the Saving America’s Pollinators Act, which seeks to suspend the use of neonics on bee-attractive plants until EPA reviews all available data, including field studies. This bill has bi-partisan support and 68 cosponsors. Last week, President Obama announced a federal strategy to protect pollinators and called on EPA to assess the effect of pesticides, including neonicotinoids, on bees and other pollinators within 180 days.

Communities Take Action

Monday night, the city of Spokane, WA officially voted to discontinue the use of neonicotinoids by government officials on city owned property. The city is now the second in the nation, following the City of Eugene’s ban in February, to take action to protect pollinators in the absence of action by the federal legislation. In California, beekeepers and local advocates are supporting a bill that would force the state of California to complete its evaluation of neonicotinoid pesticides, years ahead of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) review which is not scheduled to be completed before 2018. Other communities joining the movement include Bee Safe Neighborhoods in Boulder, Colorado, and Minnesota, which passed a bill to label garden plants for pollinators. In Maryland, a bill containing language to restrict neonicotinoid pesticides was unfortunately recently withdrawn, after an “unfavorable report” by the environmental committee. In New York and New Jersey, language has been drafted in the state legislature to restrict neonicotinoids in various ways.

Join Us and Other Groups to Take Action for Pollinators

Friends of the Earth U.S., the Pesticide Research Institute and SumOfUs, released the report with American Bird Conservancy, Atlanta Audubon Society, Bee Safe Neighborhoods, Beyond Pesticides, Beyond Toxics, Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Food Safety, Ecology Center, Environment New York, Environment Texas, Environmental Youth Council, Food and Water Watch, Friends of the Earth Canada, Georgia Organics, Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, Maryland Pesticide Network, Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides, Organic Consumers Association, Pesticide Action Network North America, Toxics Action Center, Toxic Free North Carolina, Turner Environmental Law Clinic, and The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation in the following cities: Ann Arbor, MI, Atlanta, GA, Austin, TX, Boulder, CO, Boston, MA, Baltimore area, MD, Eugene, OR, London, Ontario, Minneapolis, MN, Montreal, Quebec, New York, New York, Portland, ME, Raleigh, NC, Sacramento, CA, San Francisco, CA, St. Augustine, FL, Vancouver, British Columbia and Washington, DC.

We urge you and other pollinator supporters to continue to pressure retailers, legislators, and other government officials to take meaningful action to protect pollinators. Visit Beyond Pesticides’ BEE Protective webpage to learn about more about pollinator protection and see what you can do to help.

Source: Friends of the Earth

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides

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25
Jun

Scientists Call for Global Action with Release of “Worldwide Assessment” of Bee-Harming Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides, June 25, 2014) Following last week’s celebration of “National Pollinator Week” and a presidential memorandum mandating federal action on bees, the first wide-scale scientific analysis has been released that links two classes of pesticides to declining bee populations. Twenty-nine scientists representing many disciplines reviewed over 800 peer-reviewed publications on the impacts of systemic pesticides, and are recommending more restrictions on neonicotinoid pesticides. This report is the single most comprehensive study of neonicotinoids ever undertaken.

The “Worldwide Integrated Assessment (WIA)” — undertaken by the Task Force on Systemic Pesticides — documents significant harms to bees and ecosystems. While some aspects of this report have been broadly acknowledged before (e.g. risks to honey bees), some, including risks to earthworms, birds and aquatic invertebrates, have not. The analysis focuses not only on impacts to particular organisms and habitats, but also on biodiversity and ecosystem impacts, taking a holistic view of pesticide effects. The scientists are calling for new, dramatic restrictions on bee-harming pesticides in the United States and beyond. The report finds that the current regulatory system has failed to consider the full range of pesticide effects.

“This report should be a final wake up call for American regulators who have been slow to respond to the science,” said Emily Marquez, PhD, staff scientist at Pesticide Action Network North America. “The weight of the evidence showing harm to bees and other pollinators should move EPA to restrict neonicotinoids sooner than later. And the same regulatory loopholes that allowed these pesticides to be brought to the market in the first place — and remain on the shelf — need to be closed.”

“The science clearly shows that, not only are these systemic pesticides lethal to pollinators, but even low doses can disrupt critical brain functions and reduce their immunity to common pathogens,” said Nichelle Harriott, staff scientist at Beyond Pesticides.

The report will appear in a forthcoming issue of the journal Environmental Science and Pollution Research and is being released at events in Brussels, Manila, Montreal and Tokyo over the next couple days. It underscores that neonicotinoid pesticides and their breakdown products are persistent and harmful, even at very low levels. Neonicotinoids, like imidacloprid, clothianidin, thiamethoxam, acetamiprid, and dinotefuran, are widely used as a seed coating on agricultural crops, and in home and garden products applied to flowering plants and vegetables. Studies have found that bees are exposed to neonicotinoid pesticides through pollen and nectar, as well as via contaminated soil, dust, and water. They have also been shown to impair bees’ ability to learn, to find their way back to the hive, to collect food, to produce new queens, and to maintain a healthy immune system. Most recently, a Harvard School of Public Health study, published in the Bulletin of Insectology, shows two widely used neonicotinoids appear to significantly harm honey bee colonies over the winter, especially during colder winters. Read the report: No longer a Big Mystery.

In addition to bees, the report highlights the far-reaching impacts of neonicotinoids on entire ecosystems, from direct exposure to persistence in soil and water. Bumble bees, butterflies and other pollinators that serve both agriculture and provide ecosystem support services are also in jeopardy from these pesticides. In addition to neonicotinoids, the report also focuses on the insecticide fipronil, which is also linked to impacts on bees and has been targeted by European regulators for an additional ban.

According to the scientists, “The existing literature clearly shows that present day levels of pollution with neonicotinoids and fipronil caused by authorized uses, frequently exceed lowest observed adverse effect concentrations for a wide range of non-target species and are thus likely to have wide ranging negative biological and ecological impacts,” and  suggest that regulatory agencies consider applying the principles of prevention and precaution to further tighten regulations on neonicotinoids and fipronil, and consider formulating plans for a substantial reduction of the global scale of use, and encourage the adoption of alternate agricultural strategies to manage pests.

“To save our invaluable pollinators, EPA, USDA and all Federal agencies must read this report and immediately implement regulatory remedies against the ongoing neonicotinoid disaster,” said Doug Gurian-Sherman, PhD, senior scientist for Center for Food Safety. “We know from recent studies that neonicotinoid seed treatments are generally not improving yields or even keeping common pests at bay. They aren’t serving farmers and they certainly aren’t serving pollinators. It is time to address this common route of exposure.”

The neonicotinoids, imidacloprid (Bayer), then later clothianidin (Bayer), thiamethoxam (Syngenta) and dinotefuran first came into heavy use in the mid-2000s. At the same time, beekeepers started observing widespread cases of colony losses, leaving beekeepers unable to recoup their losses. This past year was another challenging one for farmers and beekeepers, with beekeepers reporting average losses of over 45%.

“The report lends credence to what beekeepers have been saying for several years,” said Jeff Anderson, beekeeper and owner of California-Minnesota Honey Farms. “Our country depends on bees for crop pollination and honey production. It’s high time regulators realize that applying toxins to plants makes them toxic to bees.”

Over the past few years, Beyond Pesticides, other advocacy groups, and beekeepers have filed legal petitions and lawsuits with EPA, calling on the agency to suspend the use of neonicotinoids.  Yet, over two years later, the agency has refused and indicated it will not finish its review for clothianidin and thiamethoxam, as well as other neonicotinoids, until 2018. But according to advocates, bee deaths in Oregon last week from the use of a neonicotinoid and mounting scientific evidence require an urgent response that necessitates removing these chemicals from the market. Meanwhile, environmental regulators in Europe instituted a two-year moratorium on the chemicals last December based on the evidence from independent studies.

Last Friday, the White House released a Presidential Memorandum on pollinator health to the heads of federal agencies requiring action to “reverse pollinator losses and help restore populations to healthy levels.” The President is directing agencies to establish a Pollinator Health Task Force, and to develop a National Pollinator Health Strategy, including a Pollinator Research Action Plan. The memorandum recognizes the severe losses in the populations of the nation’s pollinators, including honey bees, wild bees, monarch butterflies, and others. In accordance with these losses and acknowledging the importance pollinators have to the agricultural economy. Read related article by the Washington Post.

Source: Press Release

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides

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24
Jun

Close Proximity to Pesticide-Treated Fields Increases Risk of Autism

(Beyond Pesticides, June 24, 2014) Research from the University of California, Davis CHARGE (Childhood Autism Risks from Genetics and the Environment) study finds that pregnant women who lived within a mile of agricultural fields treated with insecticides are more likely to have their child develop autism. The results of the CHARGE study, published in Environmental Health Perspectives, strengthens calls from public health and environmental groups urging regulators take a precautionary approach to agricultural chemicals and institute increased protections for those who live, work, or go to school near pesticide-treated fields.

The CHARGE study looked at pregnant women’s addresses to determine their location relative to fields treated with pesticides. For women who lived less than one mile from crops sprayed with organophosphate insecticides during their pregnancy, researchers found the likelihood of their child being diagnosed with autism increased 60%. Women in the second trimester living near fields treated with chlorpyrifos, a widely used organophosphate insecticide banned for household use in 2001, are 3.3 times more likely to have their children diagnosed with autism. In response to a legal petition, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2012 instituted risk mitigation measures for chlorpyrifos, including reduced application rates and no-spray buffer zones around sensitive sites, such as where children play. Although EPA is continuing to study how drift from chlorpyrifos treated fields impact those that live nearby, Beyond Pesticides and health advocates urge a complete ban on the use of this chemical. Chlorpyrifos is often referred to as the “poster child” for why EPA’s risk assessment, the current method for evaluating pesticides, does not work to protect the public, workers and the environment, given that safer methods, including organic practices and products are increasingly available in the marketplace.

The UC Davis team also found links to the application of another class of insecticides not previously studied for associations with autism: synthetic pyrethroids. Living near a field where pyrethroids were applied during a woman’s third trimester corresponded with an 87% increased risk of having a child with autism. Synthetic pyrethroids, often touted as safer alternatives to organophosphates, or “as safe as chrysanthemum flowers” by pest control companies, are allowed for use in and around homes, in addition to their application on crop fields. But recent studies are showing significant concerns with this class of chemicals; linking them to learning problems, and adverse behavioral and emotional development in children. Despite new data on concerning health affects to children, in 2012 EPA expanded the allowed uses of these pesticides, and removed the protective safety factor for children.

Autism is on the rise in the United States. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, one in 68 U.S. children has been identified with an autism spectrum disorder. In 1981 this number was one in 10,000. Since only 2002, autism rates have increased 123% (from 1 in 150 children) in America. Although many attribute the increase to changes in the criteria for an autism diagnosis, and genetics have been shown to play a major role, a growing number of health advocates are concerned about how exposure to industrial chemicals relates to the rise in autism spectrum diagnoses. “It’s time to start looking for the environmental culprits responsible for the remarkable increase in the rate of autism in California,” said Irva Hertz-Picciotto, an epidemiology professor at University of California, Davis, in response to a 2009 study linking autism to environmental exposures. A Swedish study earlier this year found that genetic risk for autism accounted for only 50% of overall risk, leaving an interplay of environmental factors to account for the rest. Scientists are sounding the alarm on environmental chemicals linked to a long list of neurodevelopmental disabilities in children, ranging from autism, ADD, dyslexia and other cognitive impairments. “We need to know if some moms are at higher risk than others and what that risk is. Knowing who is most vulnerable is key to understanding how to better protect them,” said Janie Shelton, PhD, the CHARGE study’s lead author.

Across the country, localities where residents live near pesticide treated fields are taking precautionary action to prevent the harmful effects of exposure. In Kauai County, Hawaii, the county council passed a measure that would implement pesticide buffer zones around crop fields where these chemicals are sprayed. However, agrichemical companies have sued the small island in attempts to stop the implementation of the law.

For more information, visit Beyond Pesticides’ Pesticide-Induced Diseases Database, where we track the science on how pesticides are contributing to the rise of learning and developmental disorders in children.

Source: Environmental Health News

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides

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23
Jun

As President Mandates Pollinator Protection, EPA Lags Behind Science

(Beyond Pesticides, June 23, 2014) During the close of National Pollinator Week, the White House issued a Presidential Memorandum on pollinator health to the heads of federal agencies requiring action to “reverse pollinator losses and help restore populations to healthy levels.” The President is directing agencies to establish a Pollinator Health Task Force, and to develop a National Pollinator Health Strategy, including a Pollinator Research Action Plan. Beyond Pesticides applauds this announcement and action that recognizes and elevates the plight of pollinators in the U.S. Download the Press Release.

Friday, June 20, 2014, President Barack Obama signed a Presidential Memorandum that recognizes the severe losses in the populations of the nation’s pollinators, including honey bees, wild bees, monarch butterflies, and others. In accordance with these losses and acknowledging the importance pollinators have to the agricultural economy, the Memorandum directs federal agencies to establish a Pollinator Health Task Force, to be chaired by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), develop a pollinator health strategy within 180 days, and support and create pollinator habitat. This federal strategy will include a pollinator research action plan, with a focus on preventing and recovering from pollinator losses, including studying how various stressors, like pesticides, pathogens, and management practices contribute to pollinator losses. The task force will also engage in a public education initiative and develop public-private partnerships with various stakeholders.

“Today, President Obama set a precedent, elevating the plight of our nation’s pollinators by acknowledging not only their importance to our economy, but directing federal agencies to be leaders in finding meaningful solutions to our current pollinator crisis,” said Jay Feldman, executive director, Beyond Pesticides. Federal agencies like the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and USDA have been slow to respond to pollinator losses and must take immediate action, especially on pesticides known to be toxic to bees and other pollinators.

EPA Fails to Restrict Pesticides Linked to Bee Decline

The President highlights many factors that contribute to pollinator decline; however it is the neonicotinoid class of pesticides that have been receiving the most scrutiny from beekeepers and scientists. These pesticides are not only highly toxic to bees, but studies find that even at low levels neonicotinoids impair foraging ability, navigation, learning behavior, and suppress the immune system, making bees more susceptible to pathogens and disease. While EPA announced Friday that it has released two tools in an effort to protect pollinators Friday, the availability of its new Pollinator Risk Assessment Guidance, and new Residual Time to 25% Bee Mortality (RT25 data), the agency still falls short of restricting the harmful systemic pesticides that are linked to bee decline.

The guidance will purportedly allow the agency to assess effects from systemic pesticides quantitatively on individual bees as well as on bee colonies. The agency is implementing elements of the guidance in its ongoing registration review of neonicotinoid pesticides as well as other pesticide regulatory work. The ongoing review includes new required of the registrants, including refined semi-field studies under more real-world application conditions, however the agency admits that other data from ongoing full-field studies will take up to several years to complete. Additionally, at the request of beekeepers and growers, the agency has also posted RT25 Data online, which gauges the amount of time after application that a particular pesticide product remains toxic enough under real-world conditions to kill 25 percent of bees that are exposed to residues on treated plant surfaces.

Though the science very clearly points to neonicotinoids as a main culprit behind bee-deaths, and while successful organically managed systems prove that these pesticides are not necessary, EPA has yet to take meaningful action to reduce exposure to these harmful chemicals. According to advocates, bee deaths in Oregon last week from the use of a neonicotinoid and mounting scientific evidence require an urgent response that necessitates removing these chemicals from the market. With continued incidents like these, beekeepers and many other concerned groups and citizens continue to urge EPA to suspend the use of neonicotinoids.

The Saving America’s Pollinators Act

As EPA continues to stall, Beyond Pesticides, along with other groups are working to BEE Protective. Last year, Beyond Pesticides, Center for Food Safety, and others filed a lawsuit against EPA on its continued registration of these chemicals. The groups are also working to pressure on lawmakers in Congress to take action to protect pollinators. H.R. 2692, the Saving America’s Pollinators Act (SAPA), introduced last year by Representatives John Conyers (D-MI) and Earl Blumenauer (D- OR) would suspend the use of neonicotinoid pesticides until a full review of scientific evidence and a field study demonstrates no harmful impacts to pollinators. Three new co-sponsors signed on Friday, including Rep. Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA), Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA), and Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-CA), bringing the total number of cosponsors to 68! With one in three bites of food reliant on pollinators, it is imperative that solutions be found quickly to protect bees and other pollinators. Tell your member of Congress to support SAPA!

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides

 

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20
Jun

Spokane to Vote on Monday to Ban Neonicotinoids

(Beyond Pesticides, June 19, 2014) The city of Spokane, Washington is inching ever closer to a ban on neonicotinoid pesticides, a class of chemicals that has been linked to the global disappearance of honey bee populations. If the ban passes, Spokane will soon be part of a growing movement to protect pollinators.

The Spokane City Council will be voting on the neonicotinoid ordinance this Monday, June 23. The ban will halt both the purchase and use by the city of products that contain neonicotinoids. The ordinance specifically names six types of neonicotinoids used on crops, imidacloprid, clothianidin, thiamethoxam, dinotefuran, acetamiprid, and thiacloprid, and explains that the majority of these chemicals “are highly toxic to bees, can reduced [sic] fecundity, depress the bees immune system, and increase susceptibility to biological infections, and, depending on the amount of exposure, can be lethal/ sub-lethal to the honey bees.” You can read more about the exact wording of this proposed ordinance here.

Council President Ben Stuckart, who introduced the ordinance, wants the city to stop using the chemicals on its properties. The ban would be part of an undertaking to implement environmentally sustainable initiatives at City Hall.

The ordinance would affect all city departments excluding the Parks Department land, which is governed by its own board. According to Stuckart, 32 percent of Spokane is city-owned land on which pesticides might be used. Another 18 percent is controlled by the Parks Department, but Stuckart is hopeful that the Parks Board might follow the city’s lead in banning the products. The ban would not affect private home use on personal property.

If the Spokane City Council does vote to ban neonicotinoids, they will not be alone. Eugene, Oregon took a similar step earlier this year, and the European Union has placed a two-year moratorium on the pesticides. In Congress, Saving America’s Pollinator Act, H.R. 2692, introduced by Representatives John Conyers (D-MI) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), is gaining bipartisan support in the House. The bill aims to suspend the use of neonicotinoid pesticides until a full review of the scientific evidence has been conducted and a field study demonstrates no harmful impacts to pollinators. In the meantime, communities, such as one in Boulder, Colorado, are already taking the initiative to protect pollinators from harmful neonicotinoid pesticides by creating Bee Safe Neighborhoods.

Seattle and Washington State residents, please let elected officials know how you feel about the city protecting bees. Interested in reading up on the issue? Check out Beyond Pesticides BEE Protective page. And don’t forget – this week is Pollinator Week! See all our daily and ongoing events: participate in our photo contest, Twitter chats (#pollinatorchat), and more!

Source: Inlander

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

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19
Jun

First Colorado “Bee Safe” Neighborhood Established

(Beyond Pesticides, June 18, 2014) Just in time for Pollinator Week, the Melody-Catalpa neighborhood of Boulder has become the first “bee-safe” locality in Colorado that has pledged to not use neonicotinoids and other systemic pesticides in the community, in an effort to protect bees and other pollinators, and provide safe forage and habitat.

Melody-Catalpa joins other small communities across the country in taking a stand against bee decline by committing to not use pesticides toxic to bees and other pollinators. The small community north of Boulder signed a pledge not to use neonicotinoids and similar systemic pesticides, and is buzzing with excitement over earning the distinction. This past spring, the City of Eugene, Oregon became the first community in the nation to specifically ban from city property the use of neonicotinoid pesticides, citing recent research demonstrating a link between pesticides that contain neonicotinoids and the loss of plant pollinators, including honey bees, native bees, butterflies, moths, and other beneficial insects.

Melody-Catalpa’s grassroots action began earlier this year when three neighborhood residents banded together to sign on about 20 volunteers to go door to door to get more than half of the area’s 389 households to sign a pledge not to use the highly neurotoxic chemicals the science is showing is contributing to declines reported in global bee populations. Residents who signed the pledge were awarded “bee safe” flags, signifying their commitment to plant in their front lawns. For more information on getting your community to pledge to be neonicotinoid-free, contact Beyond Pesticides.

The organization certifying Melody-Catalpa’s status as the first neighborhood in Colorado to earn the “bee-safe” label is the Living Systems Institute of Golden, which promotes sustainable ecosystems and zero waste. David Braden, founder and executive director of the Living Systems Institute, confirmed that Melody-Catalpa is “the first one to provide documentation to us of at least 75 contiguous homes agreeing not to use systemic poisons,” 75 being the minimum number to qualify for the institute’s bee-safe designation. Explaining the impetus for encouraging more communities to make such a commitment, Mr. Braden said, “If we poison all of our pollinators, then there’s a problem for us as a species surviving on the planet.”

The decision by Melody-Catalpa to pursue ‘bee-safe’ designation is applauded by Rella Abernathy, integrated pest management coordinator for the city of Boulder.”We think it’s a great idea,” Ms. Abernathy said. “The city always encourages residents to reduce or decrease their use of pesticides. We’re supportive of it, and we would like to see more and more bee-safe neighborhoods in the city.” Ms. Abernathy said the city has not used pesticides on any of its managed turf for 12 years, does not apply it to its landscape plants, and that the only neonicotinoid on the list of approved insecticides for use by the city is imidacloprid, for targeted injection in trees by its forestry department. However, the city recently banned its use for treatment of emerald ash borer management, and imidacloprid is not now in use at all, according to Ms. Abernathy.

Neonicotinoids, like imidacloprid, clothianidin, thiamethoxam, acetamiprid, and dinotefuran, are widely used as a seed coating on agricultural crops, and in home and garden products applied to flowering plants and vegetables. Studies have found that bees are exposed to neonicotinoid pesticides through pollen and nectar, as well as via contaminated soil, dust, and water. They have also been shown to impair bees’ ability to learn, to find their way back to the hive, to collect food, to produce new queens, and to maintain a healthy immune system. Most recently, a Harvard School of Public Health study, published in the Bulletin of Insectology, shows two widely used neonicotinoids appear to significantly harm honey bee colonies over the winter, especially during colder winters. Read the report No longer a Big Mystery.

With one in three bites of food reliant on pollinators, it is imperative that local action be taken to protect bees and other pollinators in light of federal inaction. In fact, a recent study out of the University of California, Berkeley, reports that not only do pollinators help increase crop yields, but they may be even more important than fertilizers to our agricultural economy.

This week, Pollinator Week, Beyond Pesticides is doing all we can to BEE Protective of honey bees and other wild pollinators, and we want to help elevate your voice, and provide you with the tools to make real change in your community that will help save the bees.

Catch the buzz this Pollinator Week, June 16-22, 2014, to celebrate and protect these beneficial creatures with BEE Protective!

Source and Photo Courtesy: Daily Camera http://www.dailycamera.com/news/boulder/ci_25960458/boulder-neighborhood-states-first-be-declared-bee-safe

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

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17
Jun

National Organic Standards Board Threatened by USDA Maneuvering

Groups Petition USDA to Restore Organic Board’s Independent Authorities Set by Congress

(Beyond Pesticides, June 17, 2014) Today, 20 organic farm and consumer groups filed a petition with U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to protect the authority and permanence of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB). The petitioners object to recent changes to the NOSB charter, renewed on May 8, 2014, that undermine the mandatory and continuing duties of the Board as established by Congress under the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) of 1990.saveorganic1

The NOSB, intended to safeguard the integrity of the organic food label, was created by Congress with independent authorities that operate outside the discretion of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Petitioners maintain that in renewing the charter under the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA), USDA mistakenly re-categorized the NOSB as a time-limited Advisory Board subject to USDA’s discretion and a narrowing of responsibilities.

“These changes to the NOSB Charter are significant and directly controvert the specific mandates of OFPA and Congress that NOSB is a permanent, non-discretionary committee that must fulfill a long list of statutorily mandated duties integral to the organic program,” said Aimee Simpson policy director and staff attorney for Beyond Pesticides.

The NOSB Board, appointed by the Secretary of Agriculture, is comprised of a wide swath of organic interests, including farmers, consumers, environmentalists, processors, a retailer, and a certifier. It is charged with a number of specific duties, including establishing and renewing the list of synthetic and non-organic materials allowed to be used in organic production, known as the National List.

“Congress created the Board so that a balance of organic interests, from consumer to industry, would have an irrevocable seat at the table in defining, maintaining and enhancing organic standards. That independent voice is now seriously jeopardized,” noted Paige Tomaselli, senior attorney at the Center for Food Safety.

In response to one of several recent moves by USDA to reclassify the NOSB’s role as a purely advisory and discretionary committee, petitioners urge USDA to reverse what they consider missteps. The petition finds that to comply with organic law, USDA must immediately revise the most recent NOSB Charter to accurately reflect the mandatory, non-discretionary duties and ongoing status of the NOSB as described in OFPA.

“One of the most unique things about organic is that consumers can get involved in setting the standards behind the label. For that to remain true, we need to have a strong National Organic Standards Board process,” comments Patty Lovera of Food & Water Watch.

“We have made our living from selling certified organic seed and food for over thirty years,” said Jim Gerritsen, an organic farmer in Maine and President of Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association. “NOSB integrity and fulfillment of its unique legal responsibility to represent the interests of the organic community is critical to maintaining consumer confidence in organic food and to the success of organic farming.”

The groups signing the petition include: Beyond Pesticides, Center for Food Safety, The Cornucopia Institute, Food & Water Watch, Equal Exchange, La Montanita Co-op (New Mexico), Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service, Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance, Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA) Interstate Council, Connecticut NOFA, NOFA/Massachusetts Chapter, Inc., NOFA New Hampshire, NOFA New Jersey, NOFA-New York, Inc., NOFA Vermont, Organic Consumers Association, Organically Grown Company, Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association, and PCC Natural Markets.

Beyond Pesticides continues to advocate for the voice of all organic interests and the invaluable role of the NOSB in making those voices heard. Take action to ensure a strong organic program and increasing public trust in the organic food label by logging on to Beyond Pesticides’ Save Our Organics page and following the suggested steps.

Download the Press Release.

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For more information, contact:
Aimee Simpson, 202-543-5450,asimpson@BeyondPesticides.org, www.beyondpesticides.org
Abigail Seiler, 443-854-4368, aseiler@centerforfoodsafety.org, www.centerforfoodsafety.org

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17
Jun

Beyond Pesticides Releases Pollinator-Friendly Seed Directory for Pollinator Week

(Beyond Pesticides, June 17, 2014) Given that plant starts in many garden centers across the country are grown from seeds coated with bee-harming neonicotinoid pesticides, or drenched with them, Beyond Pesticides has launched the Pollinator-Friendly Seed Directory, a comprehensive list of companies that sell organic seeds to the general public. Included in this directory are seeds for vegetables, flowers, and herbs. As bees suffer serious declines in their populations, we urge people and communities to plant habitat that supports pollinator populations, and have provided information to facilitate this in our BEE Protective Habitat Guide, as well as our how-to guide on managing landscapes with pollinators in mind.

Unfortunately, plants are too often grown with hazardous pesticides that either harm pollinators in their cultivation or threaten bees as they pollinate or forage on treated plants. Last summer, a groundbreaking report revealed that many bee-friendly garden plants sold at Home Depot and Lowe’s contain neonicotinoid pesticides with no warning to consumers. Neonicotinoid residues were detected in seven out of thirteen samples (54 percent) of commercial nursery plants. In response to this report, Beyond Pesticides, along with Friends of the Earth and other allies, launched a campaign to tell major retailers to stop selling poisoned plants. Taking this a step further, Beyond Pesticides is urging you to support organic growers by purchasing seeds and plants that are organic.

Certified organic seeds and products are really the only way to ensure that the seed production practices are protective of bees, and that residual chemicals do not contaminate the plant. Although many seed companies indicate that they sell untreated seeds, Beyond Pesticides encourages supporters to avoid purchasing these products. While untreated seeds are a step in the right direction, they do not ensure that the seed production practices are protective of bees or that residual chemicals do not contaminate the plant. Seeds and plants that are certified organic, on the other hand, do not permit the use of toxic synthetic pesticides, chemical fertilizers, genetically modified organisms, antibiotics, sewage sludge, or irradiation.

Neonicotinoids are a class of insecticides that share a common mode of action that affect the central nervous system of insects, resulting in paralysis and death. These systemic pesticides, which move through the plant’s vascular system and express themselves through pollen and nectar, include imidacloprid, acetamiprid, clothianidin, dinotefuran, nithiazine, thiacloprid and thiamethoxam. A growing body of science has implicated neonicotinoids, which are applied to or incorporated into seeds for agricultural, ornamental and garden plants, as a key factor in recent global bee die-offs. Beekeepers across the country reported losses of 40-90 percent of their bees last winter.

With one in three bites of food reliant on bees and other insects for pollination, the decline of honey bees and other pollinators due to pesticides, and other man-made causes demands immediate action. For more information on how to truly bee protective, join our campaign to protect honey bees and other pollinators from pesticides and contaminated landscapes by taking action on our BEE Protective webpage, and catch the buzz on Pollinator Week festivities, held all week long by Beyond Pesticides and allies June 16-22, 2014.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

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16
Jun

Pollinators More Important to Crop Yields than Fertilizers

(Beyond Pesticides, June 16, 2014) As pollinator week begins, the critical importance of pollinators is exemplified in a recent study out of the University of California, Berkeley. Not only do pollinators help increase crop yields, they may be even more important than fertilizers, according to the study suggests.

Ecologist Alexandra-Maria Klein, Ph.D. and her colleagues at UC Berkeley found that when there is a lack of pollination, via bees and other pollinators, there is a stronger reduction in harvest yields than when there is a lack of either fertilizer or sufficient water for the crops. Their results, which were published in the journals Plant Biology and PLoS ONE, found that when crops were pollinated, the plants bear more fruit along with a change in their nutrient content.

Dr. Klein and her team observed the effects that different conditions and treatment combinations had on almond trees. The conditions involved: preventing bees from pollinating blossoms via cages, allowing the bees to pollinate the blossoms, or pollinating the blossoms by hand. Additionally, researchers combined these conditions with four different treatments: watering and fertilizing the trees according to local practices, reduced watering, no fertilization, or reduced watering with no fertilization. In the case of several almond trees, they combined the various manipulations in order to study in isolation and in combination the effects on harvest yield and the composition of nutrients in the nuts. The almond trees that were pollinated by hand produced the most nuts, but they were very small. Conversely, a tree that was left un-pollinated produced very few nuts, although the ones that it did produce were very large. The trees pollinated by bees had an approximately 200 percent higher yield than the trees that had self-pollinated.

Fertilization and watering had an effect on harvest yield only when combined with the pollination manipulations. However, when trees were insufficiently watered, they lost more leaves, and the leaves of unfertilized trees increasingly turned yellow.

Based on these results, scientists concluded that an almond tree can compensate for the lack of nutrients and water in the short term by storing the nutrients and water in the fruits instead, but cannot compensate for insufficient pollination. Scientists also found that the nutrient composition varied according to the mode of pollination. Nuts from self-pollinated trees had a lower proportion of linoleic acid, but a higher proportion of vitamin E.

Honey bees and other pollinators have been experiencing a rapid and ongoing population decline in the U.S and other parts of the world since 2006. This has a profound impact on the stability of ecosystems, the economy, and our food supply. A May 2013 report by USDA found that one in three bites of food depends on pollination, mainly by honey bees, and that pollination is valued at $20 to $30 billion annually.

The results of Dr. Klein’s study continue to emphasize the important role that pollinators play in our daily lives. As a result, convincing the government to restrict the use of an increasingly popular class of pesticides, called neonicotinoids, has become more important than ever. You can help Beyond Pesticides put the pressure on retailers, administrators, and policy makers by visiting our BEE Protective page. You can also learn more about the basic facts behind honey bee declines here and Beyond Pesticides’ report summarizing the science behind these declines here.

Don’t forget – Pollinator Week begins today! Check out our post last Friday detailing all the different festivities hosted by Beyond Pesticides and allies throughout the next seven days. You can help us kick off Pollinator Week today with an Online Town Hall at 9 p.m. EST/6 p.m. PST with your RSVP here. We hope to see you there!

Source: ScienceDaily

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